Bus driver loses job following Tuesday incident on train tracks
By LYNETTE SOWELL
After a Facebook post went viral on Tuesday afternoon, a Copperas Cove Independent School District bus driver is out of a job when video was captured of bus #52 stopped at the 17th Street railroad crossing behind Copperas Cove High School.
Eyewitness Kathleen Castro was with a friend who’d just picked her daughter up after school let out and they were waiting in line on the street below the crossing and saw the incident unfold.
“We heard the train (horn) blowing, and we look over and see the bus sitting on the tracks with the arm stuck on it, and they were trying to back up,” Castro said. “Finally it was able to back up right before the train came.”
The video and accompanying photos were shared more than 1,100 times, with the video itself viewed more than 100,00 times.
CCISD released a statement on Wednesday morning regarding the incident in which the bus was transporting approximately 25 students from the high school on Tuesday afternoon.
“As the bus entered the tracks, the red flashing lights began, the bell sounded and the crossing arm began to come down. The bus driver reversed the bus off of the tracks to ensure the safety of the students but the crossing arm came down on the bus. The bus was not in contact with the train and no students were harmed in the incident. The driver was not cited,” stated Wendy Sledd, the district’s director of communications. “CCISD continues to keep the safety of its students and staff as its top priority and removed the students from the bus and placed them on another bus with a new driver and transported them safely home. The driver of bus #52 is no longer employed with CCISD.”
Sledd added that on Wednesday, all CCISD bus drivers underwent a railroad crossing refresher course before their afternoon routes.
According to the district, all CCISD bus drivers receive 25 hours of in-service training at the beginning of each school in in addition to the state-mandated 20-hour certification required to receive their licenses to drive a bus. They are also required to enroll in an eight-hour recertification course every three years. CCISD has not had a fatality-related school bus accident in more than 40 years. Also, CCISD transports more than 5,594 students daily, with 170 routes every day during the last school year, traveling 479,669 miles and 2,710 miles per day. The department also covers 90,797 miles transporting extra-curricular students to events and 570,466 miles in total over the last year.
The press release also pointed to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, that during normal school travel hours student fatalities by teen drivers make up 58 percent of all fatalities, fatalities when traveling with adult drivers make up 23 percent of all fatalities, while only one percent of fatalities occur when traveling by school bus.
“This equates to students being 50 times more likely to arrive at school and back home alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends,” CCISD Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Support Services Rick Kirkpatrick said. “Our drivers undergo drug and alcohol testing throughout the year and undergo frequent driving record checks to ensure our students are safe.”
Sledd said that any parents with questions or concerns should contact CCISD Director of Support Services, Gary Elliott, at (254) 547-3362.